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Symposium review: Selection for fertility in the modern dairy cow—Current status and future direction for genetic selection

Lucy, M.C.
Journal of dairy science 2019 v.102 no.4 pp. 3706-3721
artificial insemination, calving, corpus luteum, cows, days open, estrus, female fertility, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, insemination, management systems, natural selection, oviducts, ovulation, phenotype, pregnancy, progesterone, spermatozoa, uterus
The establishment of pregnancy following insemination is the primary definition of fertility in most dairy systems. Highly fertile cows establish pregnancy sooner after calving and require fewer inseminations than lower-fertility cows. Pregnancy occurs through a series of individual events in sequence. In postpartum cows, for example, the uterus involutes, estrous cycles are re-established, estrus is expressed and detected, sperm are deposited in the reproductive tract and capacitate, ovulation occurs and is followed by fertilization, and the corpus luteum forms and produces sufficient progesterone to maintain pregnancy. The oviduct supports early cleavage and the uterus establishes a receptive environment for the developing pregnancy. Each individual event is theoretically heritable and these events collectively contribute to the phenotype of pregnancy after insemination. Across most dairy systems, genetic selection for fertility in cows is primarily based on reduced days from calving to pregnancy (i.e., days open). Dairy systems differ with respect to reproductive management applied to cows, which may affect the relative importance of individual components to the overall fertility of the cow. In some systems, cows are inseminated after detected estrus with minimal intervention. In these systems, days open effectively captures the summation of the individual components of fertility. More intensive systems use hormonal treatments (e.g., PGF2α, GnRH) followed by timed artificial insemination (AI). Timed AI does not invalidate days open but the individual components that contribute to days open may be more or less important. Selection of cows for days open within populations that are managed differently may place different pressures on the individual components of fertility. Ensuring uniform performance of future cows across a variety of reproductive management systems may require a greater understanding of the underlying genetics of the individual components of fertility.